This is a delicious lamb dish which needs little attention, the only thing you need to do is to buy a decent leg of lamb.
αρνί με κριθαράκια and pronounced ahr-NEE meh kree-thah-RAHK-yah – a traditional dish served with one leg of lamb and lots of pasta. Often served with fresh bread and a green salad.
Often cooked in a Yiouvetsi or gastra these round clay or earthenware casserole pots are designed for use indoor and outdoor wood-fired ovens and can be found in traditional and the more modern Greek kitchen. I use a deep roasting tray which works just as well – make sure it has a non-stick base though or you could be soaking it for days on end.
A leg of lamb will feed about 6 to 8 people quite comfortably and really needs little messing about with. It’s a great Sunday lunch dish which gives the impression you’ve been preparing the meat for days.
1 leg of lamb, on the bone
6 cloves of garlic
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes (sometimes I whizz up to create a passata if you don’t like tomato chunks)
75ml extra virgin olive oil
300g small dried macaroni
2 tablespoons dried mint or roughly torn fresh
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat your oven to 150°C/300ºF/gas mark 2The first job is to make small, deep cuts into your bone-in lamb leg. Use a sharp knife or small craft knife (I get mine from the DIY section in the £1 store). The garlic cloves will pop straight out again as soon as they get hot so make sure you cut deep and push your clove right the way in). I use six cloves of garlic, spread evenly across the circumference of the leg.
Dice the onions and put them into your clay pot or large non-stick roasting dish. Add the tomatoes and oil and stir well. Put the meat on top, and place in the oven.
Cook for 3 and a half hours. Keep an eye on the sauce and add water to prevent it from drying out. Basting the lamb with spoonfuls of the sauce forms a crust of caramelised onions on the meat.
When you’ve just 20 minutes of cooking time left, add a mug of water to the sauce and stir in the macaroni.
Season, sprinkle well with dried mint (use more than you think you should – it adds a peppery kick to the sauce) and put back into the oven until the pasta is tender.
The macaroni will expand and absorb the liquid sauce, which in turn will have absorbed all the juices from the meat. Keep adding water and stirring every 5 – 10 minutes if you need to so that the pasta stays moist and doesn’t stick.
If you don’t have macaroni, penne, rigatoni, farfalle or short fusilli work equally as well.
This carves like butter and tastes absolutely fantastic – the pictures speak for themselves.
I’ve had guests eating this directly from my roasting tin – it really does taste that good. Green beans or a well tossed salad are the perfect accompaniment to this dish.